Monday, November 14, 2011

What to do with apples and why

Deprivation. That is what eating seasonally means. It means that in high summer you do not eat an apple. You walk right on by that crackling green Granny Smith that lurks year round in the grocery store bins. Because it didn't come from around here. It means that in January you do not buy those stackable plastic boxes of raspberries (sometimes I cheat. I do), and it means that tomatoes are not the pink slices in silly salads or the vine-grown Canadian ones in February, but the ripe, fat, sweet and bursting Brandywines of August.

That is seasonal deprivation's reward: ripeness, in its time. When we stuff ourselves. It means longing, and looking forward, and remembering, and eating now.

(If we have markets, of course. And we must demand them, and ask our local greengrocer to stock local produce when he or she can.)

And then after much stuffing, months of it sometimes, we get tired. Think of it, we are only on the cusp of root vegetable season. Here in the Northeast, five more months to go. In March a supermarket tomato starts to look pretty darn good.

So now it's apples. You can smell them from a few feet away. You bite into them just for the pleasure of hearing their cold weather rifle crack before the juice hits your taste buds.

You eat apple and fennel salad, apples slivered onto arugula and topped with pea shoots and a lemony dressing, apples grated into curried butternut squash soup, apples cored and stuffed with currants and sugar and cinnamon and and butter and baked till they explode, apples in syrup shaken into cocktails with cognac, apples gently poached in Riesling and sipped as a clear apple soup, apple slices caramelized as a side to mustardy pork chops, apples halved hollowed and stuffed with ground meat, allspice, pine nuts and pomegranate molasses and baked till sticky, apples chunked with walnuts and sticky bits of Humboldt Fog cheese, apples sliced and eaten with wedges of cheddar, apples tossed with celery and walnuts and mayonnaise for a Waldorf salad, apples bathed in lemon juice and mixed with thin red onion slices and winter parsley, apples gently stewed with a stick of cinnamon and covered with pastry and made into apple pie.

Apples from Wilklow Orchards.

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